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Ara Travel & Tourism Students Match Study’s Celebratory Mood

While in previous years ‘travel’ may have topped a list of New Zealanders’ goals, the arrival of COVID made this prospect recede into the hazy distance - for aspiring travellers globally.

It also had profound repercussions for anyone planning to enter an industry moving into uncharted territory - a new environment that may demand ‘health passports’, years of border restrictions and a ‘new normal’ of focusing on domestic demand. And that’s before a possible re-think of the whole concept of mass tourism in the face of a growing awareness of the associated carbon costs.

So one would be excused for thinking that Ara’s latest batch of learners graduating with freshly-minted Certificates in Travel and Tourism (Levels 3 and 4) might have cause to feel a little glum.

However, during their nineth annual Travel And Tourism Education Expo, the assembled students and their chosen speakers were all in high spirits. The morning event, which featured a range of student, alumni and staff speakers, as well as a presentation of the year’s awards, was animated by positive spirits and expressions of optimism regarding the students’ careers of choice.

This confidence is not restricted to Ara graduates either - recent research has demonstrated that, despite the numerous challenges thrown up by the year’s events, and an initially anxious response to the advent to COVID, New Zealand tourism students bounced back to become "optimistic (that) their tertiary tourism qualifications will become increasingly sought after as the industry works to reimagine and rebuild tourism in Aotearoa New Zealand," as described in a summary of the research released by Victoria University on November 25th.

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After a hearty cooked breakfast at Visions, enlivened by student speeches from Gavin Allpress, Lisa Fox, Zoya Elvidge, Aaliyah Khan, Sophie Daly, Daniel Lake and Ollie Smith, the class Student Representatives and Jade Collier, a successful graduate of Ara’s 2019 programme, spoke to the assembled family, friends and industry figures, and invited the party to visit students’ individual displays over in the Rakaia Atrium.

Complete with brochures, globes, travel itineraries and appropriate decorative items, the students had been asked to create, in groups, eight separate bespoke travel agencies, specialising in different locales and experiences. Each stall was manned by the students, who shared their business inspiration and ideas, while also taking the opportunity to talk to industry professionals about themselves and their career plans.

Bianca Salcedo hopes to become a travel agent, while Kezya Rai, Zoya Elvidge, Aaliyah Khan and Shavaughn Gray would all like to enter the airline or cruise industries in the future.

Makyla Brown, Travel and Tourism Portfolio Coordinator, said "Through their interactions with Ara’s highly-skilled and experienced tutors, our students come away with a sound understanding of a range of careers within the sector, and they also gain valuable contacts throughout the New Zealand industry. This is Ara’s key focus; working closely with our learners’ future employers to ensure that students not only learn what they need to be successful along their chosen career path, but they also gain the confidence and networking skills that they need to make a place for themselves in a demanding and in-demand industry."

Zoya Eldvidge appreciated the contribution that her studies at Ara had made to her prospects, saying "I worked through the challenges of lockdown with my classmates, and while it wasn’t always easy, we made it. Ara has helped shape me into the person I wanted to be become when I was younger; to realise the path I wanted to take… I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn an amazing subject with great people around me for support."

Double-award winner Ollie Smith, who originally hails from the UK, says "During my time at Ara, I learnt so much about the tourism industry within New Zealand, and doing this course has made me realise that tourism is the right career for me, and I hope eventually to have a career in adventure tourism."

It is hardly surprising that a number of students can envision a future working in New Zealand, sharing its wealth of tourism experiences with visitors, as they joined tutors in October on a ‘famil’ - a four day trip to NZ tourist Mecca Queenstown. This experience certainly was a highlight of the year for quite a number of the students, including Ollie.

The good news is that some commentators, including Forbes, feel that newly-qualified employees in the travel sector will be well positioned to take advantage of what could be a "travel boom" in discerning travellers seeking genuine, immersive experiences with a renewed sense of purpose and desire for multi-cultural connection. As the Jakarta Post opined last week, the "Tourism players are projecting a rebound of the pandemic-battered travel sector next year amid reports on successful trials of vaccines that are hoped to boost travel confidence among the general public."

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